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Published: February 17th 2015
We enjoy a final leisurely morning on the beach before it is time to pack up and head to Pondicherry. Two minutes down the road we discover to our horror that the guy at the check out desk has managed to insert an extra digit into the debit card charge for our hotel stay, thus increasing the bill tenfold. ‘Turn round’ we screech to Mr Hussain! Problem solved, we set off once for more for a 2 hour drive to Pondicherry. Finding the hotel requires a lot of stops to ask the way, but eventually we pull up in front of a house in a small side street. It is built around a courtyard, with just ten rooms, and we get a friendly welcome. Once settled in we walk into town. The section by the sea front is the old French quarter, dating back to the 17th
century, and you could easily think you were in the south of France were it not for the people and trade that mark it out as Indian. But we start off down one of the many streets in India named after Mahatma Gandhi, where there is a Sunday market. Most of the town seem
to have come out to go shopping, and we make slow progress down the road, past shops and stalls selling clothing, household goods and used academic text books, mostly about computing and medicine. As ever there is a triple assault on the senses, with vibrant colours vying for attention with a babble of noise and intermittently pungent and disgusting smells. One of these comes from a dog which is dragging its dinner along the road. Closer inspection reveals this to be the ear and part of the head of an unspecified animal...we go down an alley to the fresh produce market. Always a potentially interesting experience in Asia. The first obstacle is a lorry blocking the entrance lane, loaded with unspecified and covered mounds, and with blood running out of its drainage channels and pitter pattering into large stinking puddles in the mud of the lane. Very glad not to be wearing open-toed sandals at this point. However having negotiated this obstacle, the market is closing for the day so there is not a lot to see.
We turn off into the French quarter, and head for the town museum after reading that it will be closed on Monday.
We arrive with half an hour to spare before it closes. David is doubtful that will allow enough time, but Sara assures him it will. She is right. There is a section of finds from a port that was a Greco-Roman trading centre, with Roman pottery and the stone and gemstone beads that were made locally, and presumably traded for the pottery. We give short shrift to the geology display of various lumps of rock, speed through coins and head through a small section of rooms with 18th
French furniture. The ‘transport gallery’ has a palanquin, a carriage and a strange vehicle called a pousse-pousse in which the passenger controls the steering while a servant pushes the vehicle from behind. And the final galleries house some really impressive bronzes from the Chola period, just thrown into dusty old display cabinets. Half an hour is indeed sufficient time.
Back at the hotel we cool down in the shower and relax before dinner. This is amazing value - £10 buys a fixed menu of egg bhaji, cauliflower soup, a huge piece of very fresh grilled fish with two delicately flavoured prawns, vegetables and a masala pancake, and a chocolate
pudding to finish. We agree we will dine in the next night too.
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